Neil Innes

Recycled Vinyl Blues

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Given that a cottage industry has sprung up around seemingly anything related to Monty Python, it's rather surprising that Neil Innes remains little more than a cult figure in America. As Python's unofficial musical director (you've seen and heard him in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl), Innes has been a consistent presence in the group's post-TV work. As the musical mind behind the Rutles, his gift for both hooks and witty lyrics had as much to do with making that satire fly as Eric Idle's contribution. And the smart, surreal humor that dominates Innes' recordings (both with the Bonzo Dog Band and on his own) would seemingly be right up the alley of any Python fanatic -- and the guy also knows how to write a great pop tune. Following the breakup of the Bonzo Dog Band, Innes briefly fronted a semi-serious pop band called the World before cutting his first solo album, 1973's How Sweet to Be an Idiot. Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues is essentially an expanded version of How Sweet to Be an Idiot, featuring all 11 songs from that LP along with some rare single sides, and it's as good a starting point as any for examining Innes' solo work. While some of the songs here are straight-up comedy pieces (particularly "Lie Down and Be Counted," "Bandwagon," and the title cut, featuring a vocal cameo from Michael Palin), most walk a graceful tightrope between sly humor and solid pop-friendly rock & roll, such as the buzzing guitars of "Momma Bee," the playful boogie of "Topless-A-Go-Go," and "Feel No Shame," which starts out light but builds to a mighty finish. Innes is also supported by a superb set of musicians, including ace guitarist Ollie Halsall and former Bonzos drummer Dennis Cowan (to whom this album is dedicated), and it's not hard to wonder if Innes might have gotten more respect and attention from the music press if he hadn't been so funny, because musically this is smart and beautifully executed stuff. Monty Python fanatics, fans of British rock of the 1970s, and anyone who digs a great hook played with heart should get to know the music of Neil Innes, and Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues is a rich sampler of what he does so well.

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